“I’ve been eating pecans since before I can remember,” recalls Mike Bowers, President of Classic Golden Pecans in Lafayette. “As a kid growing up at my grandfather’s Texas ranch there were 80 acres of pecan trees, and we’d scoop pecans up by the trash cans full.”
Company founder – and Mike’s father – Bill Bowers, worked in pecan orchards before Mike was born. In 1995, he and a friend started growing and selling their own pecans which evolved into candying the nut and opening Classic Golden Pecans in 2001. “Within five years, our volume of sales outgrew our ability to grow enough pecans,” says Mike. “So, we started buying them the following year and working with an aggregator. There’s a lot to the process of getting the pecans from the tree to the plate; our aggregator sees to all that.”
Weather conditions alone can wipe out a crop, as Mike experienced around 2011. “We were buying from an orchard in north Louisiana that got hit by torrential rains right at the time the pecans were falling from the tree. The crops were lost, and we were scrambling to look elsewhere. About that same time, another supplier in Pearsall, TX sold (and committed) their crops to China for the next 10 years.”
Today, Mike purchases grade A-1 pecan halves from all over the south. The line of candied pecans has grown to 16 varieties including: praline covered (the best seller), milk chocolate, dark chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, creamy white, cinnamon (Bowers’ personal favorite), Cajun spice, honey toasted, chocolate toffee, supreme nut mix, and Mardi Gras nut mix (a tangy spicy flavor.) The most recent addition to the gourmet sampler, butter toffee is not offered in the half or one-pound bag yet, but will be within the next year.
Many purists prefer the Classic Golden Pecans in their simple raw form. The Elliot variety is a smaller pecan and has a high oil content with a creamy, almost butter flavor. The Desirable is a larger version, like what you’d imagine at the top of a pecan pie, and has a rich, hearty flavor.
Among the company’s specialty items is the pecan fudge, a rich blend of milk chocolate, caramel and Classic pecans, made from a recipe of Bowers’s grandfather. “My father taught me how to make the fudge when I started helping in 2006,” says Mike. The unique pecan pepper jelly is another popular item.
Stored properly, the pecans have a shelf life longer than you might think. “If you keep the bag sealed at room temperature, they’ll last for months,” assures Mike. “If they are kept in a minus 12-degree freezer until they are needed, they’ll last for years.”
Since discontinuing their walk-in business in 2020, Classic Golden Pecans has continued to thrive, offering curbside service and shipping across the country. Many of their corporate customers are well-known company names. Although they no longer ship internationally, Mike says the nutty treats still make it to other countries. “Customers who pick up will often tell us that they’re taking the pecans on trips as far as Alaska, Poland…Japan.”
Of the recent news that the pecan was officially declared the state nut of Louisiana by Governor Bel Edwards on July 11, Mike says, “I think it’s fantastic! It should be the state nut. There are quite a few states in the south that grow pecans, but if you’re thinking about nuts, I don’t know of anything grown in Louisiana other than pecans.”